Qu Ping, deputy director of animal research at the institute, said about 40,000 mice, of more than 400 breeds, are raised every year for research into fields such as hepatitis B and lung cancer. They drink bacteria-free water and their food is produced especially for them, she said, adding that the institute has installed larger cages to ensure that each mouse has more room.
Jing Haijiang, who raises mice at the institute, said some are imported from, or donated by, other countries, such as the United States, while others are purchased from accredited breeding companies.
"The price of the mice varies greatly depending on their strain," he said. "Some, with rare characteristics, can cost as much as 200,000 yuan ($30,000) each."
Qu said that when an experiment is completed, all the animals are humanely destroyed. For example, mice are anaesthetized before being painlessly killed with carbon dioxide. Their bodies are stored in a large fridge before being transported and disposed of by certified companies, she said.
Huang, director of the Biological Resource Center, said the animals deserve respect. "We should treat laboratory animals well because they are being sacrificed for the well-being of human beings."
Sun, from CALAS, said animal protection is closely linked to a nation's general development and the education of its people. Simply relying on laws and regulations will not be enough to ensure the welfare of laboratory animals.
"They are totally defenseless in front of man," he said. "However, a normal person with a shred of decency would never abuse them."